Fifth Annual Hudson Valley Songfest and Music Expo

Aspiring songwriters mix with music business pros in educational workshops, panel discussions, and song critiques. Event culminates in special evening concert featuring Ellis Paul, this Saturday, May 22, at Columbia-Greene Community College.

Catskill gives Wal-Mart tax break

This Greenport Wal-Mart is empty since the new larger store opened down the street last year.


Town, Wal-Mart settle dispute
The Daily Mail, 05.05.10

Wal-Mart in Catskill gets break on tax bill
The Daily Freeman, 05.06.10

Catskill is reducing the property tax assessment on the local Wal-Mart $1.67 million, reducing their total to $13.5 million, covering the years 2010 through 2012, effectively granting the giant corporation from Arkansas a large tax break. The Daily Mail first says Catskill is giving Wal-Mart the tax break, “avoiding a costly legal battle.” Then Supervisor Peter Markou reveals a bit more: “We’ve already spent $75,000 in assessment cases,” Markou told The Daily Mail, or said during the meeting. “That’s more than I’ve budgeted for.” Then Colin DeVries, The Daily Mail scribe writes, “The town’s 2010 budget included $40,000 for assessment litigation.” William J. Kemble in The Daily Freeman writes, “the reduction, approved at a Town Board meeting Tuesday, is a step toward settling a grievance by the retail giant. Officials said the settlement, which still requires a judge’s approval, was recommended to avoid further court expenses.” Then he quotes Markou — looks like he said it in the meeting — “This town has already spent $75,000 (since 2008) in assessment cases,” said town Supervisor Peter Markou. “That’s a lot of money. That’s way beyond the budgeted (amount) that I had in there.” Kemble’s story is a day late, but no dollars short. He spent the day following the money:

Town Assessor Nancy McCoy said Wednesday that Wal-Mart paid $530,00 in town, county and school taxes in 2009, and this year is expected to save about $62,000 with the reduced assessment. McCoy said the town has spent $10,100 since January to appraise and defend assessments against five major business. “It’s all ‘big boxes,’” Markou said. “They are all going to challenge their assessments. It’s a good year to do it. The economy is in the crapper.” Besides Wal-Mart, the following companies are also seeking assessment reductions:

• Holcim Cement Co., on U.S. Route 9W, from $10,135,700 to $1,650,00. The case was filed in 2008.

• Home Depot, on state Route 23B, from $8,995,100 to $4,060,000. The case was filed in 2009.

• Lowe’s, on state Route 23A, from $7,099,000 to $3,480,000. The case was filed in 2008.

• Rite Aid, on Route 23A, from $1.8 million to $500,000. The case was filed in 2009.

“You have to pick and choose your battles,” McCoy said. “You do the analysis to see if the assessment is supportable and then weigh the cost of supporting assessment versus the possibility of losing it; what it costs versus what you could save by not going to court and settling.”

Pinetop Perkins comes to town

Blues legend Pinetop Perkins performs on May 1 at 7 p.m. with Hubert Sumlin, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, and Pura Fe’ in the Arts Center Theater at the Hudson campus of Columbia-Greene Community College. Perkins is one of the last great Mississippi bluesmen still performing and has been playing since 1926, with a unique piano style that has influenced three generations of musicians.

IDA denies Kohl’s tax break

From Francesca Olsen in The Register-Star:

The Columbia County Industrial Development Agency unanimously denied a request Tuesday morning from Widewaters Development Corp. on behalf of the Kohl’s department store chain for a 15-year payment in lieu of taxes. Read the entire article at The Register-Star.

Click on WGXC or WGXC Newsroom for more information. Send news, tips, etc. to news@wgxc.org.

Pay raises for Columbia County employees

The Register-Star reports that the Columbia County Board of Supervisors voted for a two percent pay raise for county employees Wednesday night. Supervisors voting “yes” on the pay raise were: Chairman Roy Brown, R-Germantown; Jeffrey Braley, R-Austerlitz; Reggie Crowley, R-Copake; Deputy Chairman Larry Andrews, R-Ghent; Art Baer, R-Hillsdale; Ed Cross, D-Hudson2; William Hallenbeck Jr., R-Hudson3; Deputy Chairman Bart Delaney, R-Hudson5; Pat Grattan, R-Kinderhook; Kevin McDonald, R-Livingston; Leo Pulcher, R-Stockport; and Valerie Bertram, R-Stuyvesant. Voting against: Art Bassin, D-Ancram; Robin Andrews, D-Claverack; Ray Staats, D-Clermont; Minority Leader Jesse DeGroodt, D-Chatham; Lynda Scheer, R-Gallatin; Ed Nabozny, I-Greenport; John Musall, D-Hudson1; William Hughes, D-Hudson4; and Margaret Robertson, D-New Lebanon.

Brown speaks to Register-Star

Francesca Olson holds the Register-Star’s annual interview with the current Board of Supervisors chairman, now Roy Brown R-Germantown. Brown wants Kohl’s to get their PILOT tax break to move into Greenport; is against hiring new workers to handle the increased workload at the Department of Social Services; will not rule out moving DSS to Ockawamick; and does not have enough money budgeted to bring the county courthouse in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Officials stressing One City Centre purchase

Check out that headline in The Register-Star by the usually smarter writer Francesca Olsen. If you read deep down in her story you see why the officials are stressing a future building purchase: they don’t want you to think about the tax increase they just passed. Five paragraphs in Olsen mentions “Local laws renewing an additional half-percent of mortgage tax and an additional $2 per $1,000 of additional transfer tax on real property were also enacted.” Finally, seven paragraphs in, Olsen quotes Rick Rielly, president of the Columbia-Greene Board of Realtors, saying, “These are taxes, any way you look at it.” Olsen doesn’t even dare to say who voted for the tax, only that, “The renewal of taxes passed, with Supervisor John Musall, D-Hudson 1, abstaining, Supervisor William Hughes, D-Hudson 4, voting no on the additional transfer tax, and Supervisor Ed Cross, D-Hudson 2, voting no on the renewal.” Cross voted no on both taxes.

UPDATE:
Here is who voted for the mortgage tax:
Ancram’s Thomas Dias; Canaan’s Richard Keaveney; Chatham’s Jesse DeGroodt; Claverack’s James Keegan; Clermont’s Raymond Staats; Copake’s Reginald Crowley; Gallatin’s Lynda Scheer; Germantown’s Roy Brown; Ghent’s Lawrence Andrews; Greenport’s John Rutkey Sr.; Hillsdale’s Arthur Baer; Hudson’s 4th Ward-William Hughes, 5th Ward -Bart Delaney; Kinderhook’s Douglas McGivney; Livingston’s Philip Williams; New Lebanon’s Margaret Robertson; Stockport’s Leo Pulcher; Stuyvesant’s Valerie Bertram; Taghkanic’s Elizabeth Young. The same group voted for the transfer tax, except for Hudson’s William Hughes, who voted against.

Today’s local headlines

Signs of the times

McBride’s Resale Shop at 465 Main St. in Cairo was shut down this week. Read all about it in these two images. A sign on the building still calls it Main St. Cafe, though that business has been closed awhile.

Over two thousand without power in Columbia County
National Grid reports over 2300 homes without power in Columbia at 10:30 p.m., with power not expected to be restored until 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Sam Pratt’s Facebook status reports that 23B, 9H & Rt. 23 into Hudson are closed, and power lines are down on 29. He also says it seemed dark in Taghkanic, Claverack and Greenport.

Attorney General’s new web site not very up-to-date
The attorney general’s office showed off its new Sunlightny.com open-government web site Thursday with workshops in Valatie and Cairo. Perhaps Mr. Cuomo will update the site before his gubernatorial campaign starts — right now the site’s Greene County listings do not include any Cairo officials, and report John Bull is still mayor of Coxsackie.

Town trapped in shallower hole
From Jamie Larson in The Register-Star

COPAKE – Through a combination of adjusted revenue statements and reduced spending, the Copake Town Board cut the town’s newly-discovered deficit down from an estimated $180,000 to $80,000. On party lines, the board then voted to borrow $100,000 from The Salisbury Bank and Trust Company to cover the revenue shortfall and tax the town based on assessed value in a one-time tax. The loan will be paid back in 2010. Republican supervisor Reggie Crowley, and board members Daniel Tompkins and Walt Kiernan voted to take out the loan, while Democrats Bob Sacks and Linda Gabaccia voted no.

Someone’s watching
From Linda L. Fenoff in The Greenville Press (no web site)

CATSKILL – Democrat Robin DePuy of Palenville may have joined the never-dull election for the four Catskill seats on the Greene County Legislature, by forming the “Common Sense” party. Earlier, Linda Overbaugh was ruled not eligible to run on the Republican line because of petition errors, and started the “Have a Voice” party to get on the ballot. Now Overbaugh may be knocked off that line too, as witnesses witnessed two of the “Have a Voice” candidates collecting signatures without witnesses. Can I get a witness?

Team Dudley deflates political football
From Pat Bone Cominos in The Greenville Press (no web site)

Retiring Greene County Legislator Ken Dudley (R-Greenville) withdrew his $80,000 Quantum Fund loan application for his business Tip Top Furniture in Greenville. Minority leader Sean Frey (D-Durham) said he thought the loan was, “not illegal, but unethical for the county to make a Quantum loan to a business owner who is also on the Greene County Legislature.”

Cairo board appointments
From Susan Campriello’s blog for The Daily Mail

CAIRO – Cairo Town Supervisor John Coyne says individuals involved in lawsuits against the town can be appointed to positions on Cairo boards. Several Cairo officials wanted to institute such a ban during a discussion about the ethics board. In a May 5 letter to Supervisor John Coyne, Cairo Town Attorney Tal Rappleyea, and the Town Board, Melanie Trimble, of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the board should not reject a party interested in serving on a board based upon their involvement in such litigation. “Such blanket exclusion must be viewed as retaliation against people for exercising their rights,” the letter said.

September auditions for radio theater
From The Mountain Eagle

COBLESKILL – The Theater Project of Schoharie County will hold auditions for an evening of radio theater. Two plays: “His Honor, the Mayor” and “The War of the Worlds” plus commercials and musical interludes. Auditions: Sept. 10 6 – 9 p.m. and Sept. 13 2 – 5 p.m. at Teen Town, 45 North Grand St, Cobleskill.

Today’s local headlines

Mistaken identity muddles Catskill candidacy
The Greenville Press (no web site)

CATSKILL – Linda Fenoff scoops everyone with the story of Linda Overbaugh’s now potentially failed candidacy for Greene County Legislator. It seems there are two Linda Overbaughs in Catskill, and local Republicans claim a Board of Elections official put the wrong Overbaugh on the petitions to add her to the ballot. Overbaugh, who most political observers deemed a favorite in the race, now may not be on the ballot at all, since all the signatures she received were for someone else, and incumbent Democrat Forest Cotten, who challenged the petition, has a much better chance. (Overbaugh is executive director of Heart of Catskill Association, and full disclosure, was on the WGXC Radio Council for a few months before she said she was too busy and withdrew.) In the story, local GOP officials hilariously seem to say they wouldn’t have challenged a Democrat if they would have made a similar mistake. No one believes that. But if a Board of Elections official made the error, perhaps a State Supreme Court judge will rule in her favor on the petitions, as the GOP is petitioning to get her on the ballot. Otherwise, if enough voters write in her name exactly on Sept. 15’s primary, she can get back on the ballot.

Greene County OKs new tax on mortgages
From The Daily Freeman

CATSKILL – The Greene County Legislature voted to raise taxes Thursday on new home buyers in Greene County. Voting to raise taxes were Catskill’s Karen Deyo (R), Dorothy Prest (R), Keith Valentine (R); Coxsackie’s Charles A. Martinez (R) and Wayne Speenburgh (R); Greenville’s Kenneth E. Dudley (R); Prattsville, Ashland, Windham, and Jewett’s James Hitchcock (R), and Halcott, Lexington, and Hunter’s Larry Gardner (D). Legislators Forest Cotten, D-Catskill, and Sean Frey, D-Durham, voted against the tax, while William Lawrence, R-Cairo; Harry Lennon, D-Cairo; James Van Slyke, D-New Baltimore; and Ray Brooks, R-Athens, were absent. Beginning Oct. 1, home buyers in Greene County will be required to pay an additional 50 cents per $100 on new mortgages. This new tax will be on top of the current 75-cents-per-$100 surcharge assessed on all new mortgages, of which 25 cents is paid to the state by the mortgage lender and 50 cents is paid by the borrower to the municipality where the property is located. The total mortgage recording tax will increase to $1.25 per $100, with 50 cents per $100 being paid to the county.

New accountant faces old budget deficit
From The Register-Star

COPAKE – The Town Board fired accountant Brian Fitzgerald Wednesday night after he told them last month they are facing a $175,000 budget deficit at the end of the year. The Town Board did not believe his numbers and fired him for mishandling funds, acting disrespectfully at public meetings to Board members and residents, and sending internal town business e-mails to the Register-Star. They hired accountant Michael Torchia, who told them the deficit was about the same, just slighty more.

Columbia and Greene pork
From The Albany Times-Union
The Times-Union is tracking the pork projects approved by New York legislators for Columbia and Greene counties:
Columbia County:
STUYVESANT FIRE DISTRICT ONE $10,000 GORDON-T STUYVESANT
VALATIE FIRE DEPARTMENT $6,000 GORDON-T VALATIE
NORTH CHATHAM FREE LIBRARY $5,000 GORDON-T NORTH CHATHAM
KINDERHOOK MEMORIAL LIBRARY $4,000 GORDON-T KINDERHOOK
TOWN OF NEW LEBANON $3,000 GORDON-T NEW LEBANON
AIDS COUNCIL OF NORTHEASTERN NEW YORK, INC. FAIRVIEW PLAZA – $2,500 GORDON-T HUDSON
LEBANON VALLEY BUSINESS ASSOCIATION $2,500 GORDON-T NEW LEBANON
COLUMBIA GREENE COMMUNITY COLLEGE $10,000 MOLINARO HUDSON
WEST GHENT FIRE COMPANY $7,500 MOLINARO GHENT
PHILMONT FIRE COMPANY $5,500 MOLINARO PHILMONT
GREENPORT POLICE DEPARTMENT $4,800 MOLINARO HUDSON
HUDSON VALLEY AGRI-BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT CORP. $4,000 MOLINARO HUDSON
GREENPORT PUMPER COMPANY NO. 1 $3,600 MOLINARO HUDSON
CITY OF HUDSON $3,500 MOLINARO HUDSON
CITY OF HUDSON YOUTH DEPARTMENT $3,000 MOLINARO HUDSON
COLUMBIA COUNTY RIDE PROGRAM $3,000 MOLINARO HUDSON
HUDSON VALLEY AGRI-BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT CORP. $3,000 MOLINARO HUDSON
HUDSON CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT $2,500 MOLINARO HUDSON
VFW POST 1314-HUDSON $2,500 MOLINARO HUDSON
HUDSON POLICE DEPARTMENT $2,000 MOLINARO HUDSON
THE OLANA PARTNERSHIP $1,300 MOLINARO HUDSON
CHATHAM HIGH SCHOOL NEWSPAPER $500 MOLINARO CHATHAM
Columbia-Greene Community College $50,000 Saland Hudson
R.I.D.E. Program $9,000 Saland Hudson
West Ghent Volunteer Fire Company $7,500 Saland Ghent
North Chatham Free Library $5,000 Saland North Chatham
Greenport Pumper Co. No. 1, Inc. $3,600 Saland Hudson
Greene County:
TOWN OF NEW BALTIMORE TOWN HALL – $7,500 GORDON-T HANNACROIX
VEDDER RESEARCH LIBRARY $5,000 GORDON-T COXSACKIE
HEERMANCE MEMORIAL LIBRARY $2,500 GORDON-T COXSACKIE
Greene County Industrial Development Agency $18,500 Seward Coxsackie
Greene County Pop Warner Football Association, Inc. $5,000 Seward South Cairo

Today’s local headlines

Register-Star reporter Jamie Larson claims Columbia County Board of Supervisor Chairman Art Baer, “asked the Register-Star to get [Hudson Mayor Rick Scalera] to sit down with him today to reopen the discussion about [using the] Charles Williams [School] or other sites as possibilities.” The story begins with the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce holding an emergency economic forum Thursday at Hudson’s Stageworks Theater. Larson gets Baer on the phone to comment on all the outrage from the Hudson business community about his plan to move the homeless into the city’s St. Charles Hotel. “Baer said St. Charles wouldn’t be on the table if Hudson Mayor Rick Scalera hadn’t ‘stiff-armed’ talks two years ago to use the old Charles Williams School as a homeless shelter,” the story says. Scalera, reached by the reporter, agrees to meet Baer anytime. Scalera says talks to use the Charles Williams School for the homeless broke down when Baer began pushing for the Department of Social Services to move out of Hudson to the Ockawamick school in Claverack. Baer then calls this typical political dealing “blackmail,” clearly raising an even bigger fight instead of trying to solve an issue. Linda Mussmann from TSL and the Bottom Line Party says Baer’s actions are, “the dismantling of Hudson as the county seat.”… Baer also visited Washington D.C., according to the Register-Star, to lobby New York representatives for federal stimulus funding for $4 million in improvements to the museum and visitor center at the Olana State Historic Site; $3 million for an emergency communications system; $9 million for the Greenport water and sewer system; $200,000 to study a countywide broadband initiative; and $1 million to extend wastewater and sewer systems to Hudson Park on Route 23 in Livingston…. U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy put in a $15 million federal funding request on behalf of the Greene County Industrial Development Agency for “transportation infrastructure improvements to State Route 9W” and an “expansion of Exit 21B/New York State Thruway, a flyover Bridge connecting 9W, and an internal public road system connecting the flyover bridge and Kalkberg Commerce Park,” according to the Daily Mail…. The Kinderhook Republicans endorsed Patrick Grattan as town supervisor, Patsy Leader and Glenn Smith for seats on the Town Board, and Lisa Mills for town justice and cross-endorsed Democrat incumbent Highway Superintendent John Ruchel Jr. for a second term in office, according to the Register-Star….While the New York State Senate Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on anything else to start working, they can agree to keep taking your money. From the Albany Times-Union’s Capitol Confidential blog, Marissa Shorenstein, spokeswoman to Gov. David Paterson is quoted:

“The Governor’s office earlier today looked into the question of whether or not members of the Senate are eligible to receive their salaries with no presiding officer agreed upon to authorize payment. It turns out that both conferences have come together and signed appropriate documentation to continue receiving their salaries. So there is a power sharing agreement — but it only includes getting paid. If the leadership of the Senate can agree on a way to keep getting paid, they can reach an agreement to get back to work for the people of New York.”

LIVE TONIGHT:

Multimedia work by Fawn Potash and Pat Horner at Oriole 9, 17 Tinker Street, Woodstock, 5-7 p.m.

Today’s local headlines

Town meetings to air on public access channel
CAIRO – The Cairo Town Board extended Mid-Hudson Cable’s contract at their regular board meeting last night. At the public hearing about renewing the company’s franchise agreement before the board meeting, Cairo Supervisor John M. Coyne and council member Janet Schwarzenegger both advocated recording town meetings for Mid-Hudson’s public access channel. Schwarzenegger said Mid-Hudson recently gave the town a camera to record any meetings, and Coyne said, “We would like to have somebody volunteer to run that camera so that these meetings can be videotaped and can be played on their public-access channel” and a man in the audience volunteered.

Columbia County Conservative Party backs candidates
http://www.registerstar.com/articles/2009/06/18/news/news03.txt

County-wide — Sheriff, David W. Harrison Jr.; Coroner, Angelo M. Nero.
Ancram — Supervisor, Thomas R. Dias.
Austerlitz — Supervisor, Jeffrey Braley Sr.; Town Council, Matthew Verenazi and Carol Pinto; Clerk, Sue Haag; Highway Superintendent, Robert Meehan, Jr.
Canaan — Supervisor, Richard Keaveny; Town Council, David Patzwahl; Clerk/Tax Collector, Charlotte L. Cowan; Highway Superintendent, Bernhard Meyer.
Town of Chatham — Highway Superintendent, Joseph M. Rickert.
Claverack — Supervisor, James Keegan; Town Council, James S. Folz and Michael S. Johnston; Clerk/Tax Collector, Mary J. Hoose.
Clermont — Highway Superintendent, James Potts Jr.’ Clerk, Mary Helen Shannon.
Gallatin — Supervisor, Peter Arnone
Ghent — Supervisor, Larry Andrews; Town Council, Larry Van Brunt and Linda Schlegel-Hess; Clerk, Rose Elliot; Highway Superintendent, Michael E. Losa; Town Justice, David W. Harrison Sr.
Germantown — Highway Superintendent, Richard Jennings.
Greenport — Supervisor, Edward Nabozny; Town Council, Glen Graziano; Town Justice, Robert Brenzel; Highway Superintendent, Richard Otty; Clerk, Sharon Zempko.
Town of Kinderhook — Supervisor, Patrick Grattan; Town Council, Patrice Leader; Town Justice, Lisa Mills.
Hudson — Mayor, Richard Scalera; Supervisor (1st Ward), John Musall; Supervisor (2nd Ward), Tracy Decker; Supervisor (3rd Ward), William Hallenbeck Jr.; Supervisor (4th Ward), Samuel Santiago; Supervisor (5th Ward), Bart F. Delaney Jr.; Alderman (1st Ward), Geeta Cheddie; Alderman (5th Ward), Richard Goetz
Livingston — Supervisor, David Fingar; Town Council, James Guzzi and Joseph Leto; Town Justice, Robert Moore; Highway Superintendent, David Lyons.
Stockport — Town Council, Joseph Salvatore.
Stuyvesant — Supervisor, Valerie Bertram; Town Council, Brian Chittenden and Edward Scott; Clerk, Melissa Naegeli; Town Justice, Joseph Bruno; Town Justice, Carrie O’Hare; Highway Superintendent, Bernie Kowalski.
Taghkanic — Supervisor, Elizabeth Young; Clerk, Cheryl Rogers; Highway Superintendent, Edward Waldron.

Regional Economics Better Than Most
http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=810991

A new study released today by the Brookings Institution says this region is faring better than most of the nation’s metropolitan areas during the downturn. Foreclosures? We barely have them. The Brookings report says the Capital Region has the second-lowest percentage (0.58 percent) of homes owned by banks. Only Syracuse is better, among the nation’s 100 largest metros. Dramatic job cuts? Not here. Brookings says the Capital Region lost 0.5 percent of its employment base during the first three months of 2009. That doesn’t sound great, but it’s 14th best. (Detroit, by contrast, lost 3 percent of its jobs, the worst rate.)